Broad beans are one of the delights of spring. Enjoy them while they last!
They should look moist and crisp, never collapsed and flabby. If you can, select smaller pods. 1kg of fresh beans in the pod will yield about 350g of beans when podded (2/3 cups) and approximately 225g (1 1/2 cups) after double peeling. To do this, the beans are first peeled from the shells, immersed in boiling water for 30 seconds, then quickly run under a cold tap to cool. You nick the outer skins with a fingernail and flip out the green bean within. It is a very time-consuming task, but the beans are virtually cooked by the time the skins are off.
Here are four delicious broad bean recipes perfect for making use of a bumper crop.
After a few action-packed days in Paris, Annie Smithers and I headed for Gascony and here settled into base camp with other travellers, the week to be curated by Kate Hill. I have always been fascinated by those who successfully expatriate. I know I could never do it myself so I hung on Kate’s stories of how she left the US over 30 years ago, worked for awhile in the UK, bought a large canal boat and travelled up and down the canals of France and Belgium for years, with a small group of passengers before finally settling in her delightful house, alongside a minor canal in the almost non-existent village of Camont, and devoting herself to sharing the delights of Gascony with interested travellers, writing about it, developing her interest in charcuterie, and sharing it all. We had such fun. Kate must have met every small farmer up and down the river, and she had so many stories.
I am back after a month of eating, drinking, reflecting on travel and life, and immersing myself in several very different French landscapes (and a moment in Spain) and sharing the experience with a like-minded friend, chef Annie Smithers of du fermier (whom I proudly acknowledge as an apprentice way back in time).
First up, a summary of the great food experiences with a few words to give the meal a sense of place, in chronological order, not order of excellence.
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Pies and tarts are the ultimate in comfort food: nothing quite beats a buttery, flaky pastry with a tasty filling. Conveniently served warm or cold, pies and tarts are easily transported and therefore work well as picnic offerings or take-along meals. Serve a wedge with salad for a light lunch, or make individual pies for passing around at a party: fabulous one-handed food!
Turning leftovers into a pie or tart is also a wonderful way to give last night’s dinner a new life. Learn a basic pastry recipe (see Pastry – Shortcrust in the Cook’s Companion) and suddenly the possibilities are endless.
Here are nine recipes and ideas for delicious savoury tarts and pies.
Egg & Bacon Pie
This egg and bacon pie is perfect picnic fare, when one needs maximum satisfaction with every bite! Can be served warm or cold. Click for recipe.
Merna's Sausage Rolls
Merna was the mother of a friend and her sausage rolls were famous. These sausage rolls can be cooked in advance and then reheated at 180°C for 15 minutes when required. Click for recipe.
Mary's Rabbit Pie
Mary was my mother and my mentor. This rabbit pie is a family heirloom, cooked wherever and whenever my family meets. Click for recipe.
Potato Torte Using Lefover Mash
Mix 1 1/2 cups warmed mashed potato with 1 egg, a handful each of freshly grated parmesan and ricotta, 2-3 tablespoons melted butter, salt, pepper and enough warm milk to make a smooth but stiff filling. Assemble and bake torte using an olive oil pastry.
Fill small blind-baked pastry cases with chunky, well-seasoned, garlickly, fresh tomato sauce that has been reduced until thick. Add some roasted peeled sweet peppers, if available. Stir in freshly chopped basil and warm for 5 mins in an oven set at 220degC. Serve topped with creme fraiche or soft fresh goat's cheese and a dollop of tapenade.
Silverbeet & Potato Torte.
This lovely silverbeet and potato torte originates in northern Italy. The cheese is supposed to be a fontina from the Italian Alps, but the first time I made the torte I substituted a well-made Australian cheddar. It was still delicious but I must admit that a cheese with a little more ‘stretch’ is a better choice. Click for recipe.
These cheesy tart is made with gruyere or emmental cut into tiny dice and scattered over the pastry, before being covered with a cream and egg mixture and then baked. Find the recipe in the Cook's Companion App or book.
Parsley & Ham Tart
This tart will be very popular! It is packed with good things, so the wedges can be quite modest in size. Find the recipe in my book, The Cook's Table.
The Cook’s Companion App and book.
The Cook’s Table
With a lemon tree taking pride of place in so many Australian gardens, it is often a question of how to use the fruit. On backyard trees the fruit hang obligingly for weeks, with the heaviest crops occurring in late winter and spring. Lemon has so many uses: as a tenderiser, flavour enhancer, and preserver of colour in other fruit and vegetables. It is a refreshing source of acidity in drinks and a major ingredient in cakes, tarts, biscuits and creams. Lemon is mandatory with seafood, either squeezed on top or as the basis of a sauce. The zest can be used to make syrups in which to poach other fruit, and lemon peel can also be candied for a delicious after-dinner treat.
If your backyard lemon tree is heaving with fruit, here are six lemon recipes for making the most of your citrus bounty!
Time for a classic lemon tart. My favourite recipe is featured in The Cook’s Table, taking inspiration from Brisbane baker Jocelyn Hancock. She tops hers with a proper Italian meringue.
Preserved lemons last for years without refrigeration, and a slice enlivens a stuffing or is a marvellous garnish for grilled poultry or fish. Traditional methods can mean a wait of a month or two before the lemons are ready to eat – so in the Cook’s Companion App and book I have included both a traditional and a speedy method for those who cannot wait.
To make fresh lemonade, zest 3 lemons and juice 6 lemons. Dissolve about one-quarter of a cup of castor sugar in a little of the lemon juice. Pour all juice and zest into a jug, add a few bruised sprigs of lemon balm, verbena or mint. Leave for an hour and then dilute to taste with cold water.
Lemon Delicious Pudding
Still the most popular recipe on my website This is a classic and, in many families, the ultimate pudding – the golden sponge topping hiding a creamy lemon sauce. This Lemon Delicious Pudding Recipe is a favourite from the Cook's Companion. Click HERE for recipe.
This simple lemon slice is a made with a minimum of mess and is an ideal recipe for young cooks. There are three layers: a biscuit base, a gooey, sharp lemon middle and a cakey topping. Find the recipe in the Cook’s Companion App or book.
Greg Malouf's Lemon & Date Chutney
A delicious chutney recipe can be found in Greg and Lucy Malouf's cookbook Arabesque, also featured in my book Kitchen Garden Companion: Cooking. It is beautifully spiced and has some of the salty tang one associates with long-preserved lemons. The dates add a richness and a gorgeous texture.
The Cook’s Companion App and book.
The Cook’s Table
Kitchen Garden Companion: Cooking